After years of surveys, studies, meetings, roundtable discussions, input from virtually every sector of the community, official visioning work and beyond, the City of St. Joseph is on the verge of approving a comprehensive Downtown Vision Master Plan in order to launch the implementation of key elements in that plan to provide a start to bringing it into reality.
The St. Joseph City Commission will undertake the 125-page plan which looks at virtually anything and everything in the city’s central business district and peripheral neighborhoods that are critical to the support and enhancement of that district.
The entire process began several years ago when the city was alerted by the State of Michigan that in order to participate in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Redevelopment Ready Communities Program, they would need a far more robust view of the downtown, which was something the city’s 2016 Master Plan was sorely lacking in.
The commission determined that the best way to create a downtown plan was to create a Downtown Plan Steering Committee which actually began meeting in March of 2018. That committee developed a request for proposals from professional planners to help guide the process and in September of 2018 Houseal Lavigne Associates earned the contract and plowed ahead with the work to arrive at tonight’s document.
Along the way three pop-up events took place last summer with more than 2,000 instances of engagement involving more than 800 people.
As the process continued in greater and greater detail, through multiple sessions and working groups, the document began to take shape.
Last month, on December 4th, 2019, the Downtown Plan Steering Committee unanimously recommended approval of the draft plan with minor changes, which were made.
One day later, the Downtown Development Authority, on December 5th, 2019, unanimously recommended approval of the draft document.
On December 19th, 2019, the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board unanimously recommended approval of the draft plan.
Earlier this month, on January 9th, 2020, the St. Joseph City Planning Commission held a public hearing and unanimously recommended approval of the draft plan as presented, and John Houseal was present at that time to provide a presentation of the plan.
St. Joseph City Commissioner Lynn Todman, who was a member of the original Steering Committee representing the City Commission has asked that the city approve the Downtown Vision Master Plan at tonight’s meeting.
Once approved, the commission will also be asked to take up creation of an implementation action committee, “to perform in an advisory role, charged with ensuring that the plan is implemented and continues to reflect the City’s vision for downtown.” That implementation committee would meet at specific times throughout the year to review the plan, discuss completed projects, and identify opportunities for additional implementation, with the findings of such meetings turned over to appropriate city staff to direct implementation.
Staff has recommended a 7-member committee be established to help prioritize and move projects along, with one City Commission members and member of the Downtown Development Authority included in that body of seven.
The five key goals of the plan include:
- Goal #1 — Reinforce downtown’s distinct character and sense of place while accommodating desirable infill development.
- Goal #2 — Strengthen downtown as a vibrant and active year-round mixed-uses district.
- Goal #3 — Make getting around downtown easy, safe, and efficient for all modes of transportation.
- Goal #4 — Leverage proximity to Lake Michigan, the St. Joseph River, Silver Beach, and other nearby recreation and environmental assets.
- Goal #5 — Enhance the events, festivals, and out-door community gathering opportunities in downtown.
You can take a look in great detail at the complete draft plan which the City Commission will take up tonight by clicking the link below: